Nas Biography: Life and Career of the Rapper
Nas Biography: Life and Career of the Rapper

Nas Biography: Life and Career of the Rapper

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Born September 14th, 1973, in Brooklyn, New York, Nas was already rapping and recording tracks as a teenager. Despite poor sales, his 1994 debut album created buzz among critics for its lyrics and the artist's rapping skills. His next album, "It Was Written," was a commercial success and was followed by several more top 10 records. Despite a temporary beef with Jay-Z, Nas continued to gain critics' favors as well as many fans with his real and unique sound. 2012's "Life is Good" is his most recent work. In this video, takes a look at the life and career of Nas.

If he ruled the world and everything in it, sky's the limit. Welcome to and today we're taking a look at the life and career of Nas.

Growing Up

Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones was born September 14th, 1973, in Brooklyn, New York. Coming from a musical father, his music was profoundly impacted by the Queensbridge housing project where he grew up.

Musical Beginnings

He began recording music as a teen and joined forces with MC Serch from rap group 3rd Bass in 1992. The MC became his manager and helped the aspiring rapper land a record deal with Columbia Records. Released under the alias Nasty Nas, his first single, “Halftime,” was featured on the “Zebrahead” soundtrack that same year and impressed critics with its flow and rhymes.


Nas' first album Illmatic was released in 1994. Despite a top twenty debut on the charts, the disc performed poorly at the registers. However, critics raved about its gritty lyrical content and Nas' unique story-telling talents. It was awarded a coveted Five Mic rating from hip hop magazine The Source and produced five singles.

Number One Sophomore Effort

Nas released It Was Written in 1996. While the album topped the Billboard 200 upon its debut and was a commercial success with over three million copies sold worldwide, critics were less than impressed with its more radio-friendly sound. Regardless, it spawned two huge hits: “Street Dreams” and “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That).”

The Firm

During this time, Nas formed the super group The Firm with Foxy Brown, AZ and Nature. Unfortunately, their time together was short-lived and they only released one poorly received album in 1997. The next year, the rapper co-wrote and acted in the urban drama, “Belly.”

“I Am...” and “Nastradamus”

Nas released two albums in 1999. The first, I Am..., went straight to number one. It also sold almost half a million copies in its first week and yielded the number two single, “Hate Me Now.” The second record, Nastradamus, didn't fare as well as its predecessor: it premiered at number seven on the charts and only sold about half the numbers of I Am... during release week.

Hip Hop Rivalry with Jay-Z

In the early 2000s, Nas’ notorious rivalry with fellow rapper Jay-Z came to light as the two publicly traded shots through their music. For instance, Nas’ 2001 album Stillmatic contained the scathing diss tracks “Ether” and “Got Urself a Gun.” That commercially successful disc reached the Billboard top five and sold over two million copies. In addition, he won over critics once again, including The Source, which deemed it a classic album worthy of Five Mics.

“God's Son”

Nas released God's Son in 2002. The top twenty album was hailed by critics and contained the popular track, “Made You Look,” and the top twenty single, “I Can.”

Double Disc

Next came the 2004 double disc set Street's Disciple, which premiered at the fifth position of the Billboard 200. It was also Nas’ seventh album in a row to be certified platinum.

Def Jam

Nas and Jay-Z eventually settled their differences mid-decade, and this allowed Nas to sign with Def Jam Recordings while Jay-Z was president in 2006. His first album as part of the Def Jam family was Hip Hop Is Dead, which topped the Billboard 200 chart and earned a Grammy nod.


Despite controversy surrounding his inclusion on the bill, he performed at a Virginia Tech concert in the aftermath of the school shooting the next year. He then came out with 2008’s Untitled, which became the rapper’s fourth number one debut. The politically-themed effort was fairly well-received but did not feature any high-charting singles.

Reggae with Damian Marley

Nas then added reggae music to his hip hop sounds via his collaboration with Damian Marley, Distant Relatives. The 2010 effort reached number five on the charts and proceeds from its sale went to help build schools in Africa.

“Life is Good”

He set 2012 as the year he'd release his tenth album, Life is Good, which featured numerous collaborations and singles.

Hip Hop Legacy

Nas's lyrical prowess has always separated him from the average MC as his words paint pictures in the minds of his audience. He is truly hip hop at its finest: gritty, tough, smooth, real and not afraid to speak his mind. Nas may hold Five Mics, but he only needs one.